Studio Ghibli Characters in Real Life - Imgur by Amgskate

Studio Ghibli Characters in Real Life - Imgur

Dear Readers,

I don't often share links, but this one of "real life" Studio Ghibli characters seemed an appropriate thing for us t o share. Click the link to accesss Amgskate's Imgur album.

I'm especially fond of the Totoro.

Now and Then, Here and There (anime): First Impressions

This encompasses up to episode three or four of this series.

Let me just go ahead and give you an idea of where I'm coming from in this review. I picked up the boxset from a used bookstore, and this is the cover:

You get the idea, it's a cool, gritty, apocalyptic-y cover. Cool art style. Weird, overly wordy title. Everything points to an intriguing series! But then you put in the disc, and the art style looks like this:

Wha-huh? Weird. Weird weird weird.

However, I try not to be a style snob. (I'm totally a style snob though) I decided to give this series a chance. Based on the style, I was expecting a light, somewhat childish series. Little did I know what was in store for me.

This series is BRUTAL. The whole of episode of 3 is the main character being tortured, beaten, strung up to die, and picked at by a crow. It's got child soldiers and moral quandaries. This is not kid's stuff. I'm not sure who this is for, actually. It's actually a little on the brutal side even for me...I don't like seeing girls get beat up (happens a lot).

Alongside some confusing political intrigue, with the MOST ABHORRENT CHARACTER EVER CREATED, King Hamdo, there's also a full scale war going on.

I actually don't have too much to say on the story, because it's kind of confusing up to this point. They're actually on some sort of other planet/dystopia/other dimension/future earth. It's one of those, I think the translation was not particularly good and a bit of lingual finesse was lost. There's also the factor of the English voice actors being a little annoying. Not real real bad but annoying enough to take away from it a little bit. There's a lot wrong with the series, but in general it is pretty well done for a slightly aged series.

I mean, I haven't turned it off yet. ;)

Angel Beats (Anime): First Impressions

Sentai Filmworks, 2010. 13 episodes.

I don't know if any of you, Dear Readers, have ever worked with kids in a creative capacity, so let me share with you. They are overwhelmingly creative. They are endless fonts of insane detail and additions. Whether they are working with art, crafts or language they are on imagination overload. Ask them to invent a character for a story and you'll get undercover princes/princesses who are ninjas who work on construction crews and command animals telepathically and can also breath underwater and whose parents are astronauts who are stranded on a planet occupied by jelly monsters with a thousand eyes and lobster hands who can float through the air and live on lunchables (no punctuation!). And that's just for starters.

This is, sadly, kind of the feeling I get from my first viewing of Jun Maeda's Angel Beats. I am overwhelmed. The complications are illogical. In short, I am confused. 

Oh, so you say there's a high-school in the afterlife where: 
  • The lead character "wakes up dead" with amnesia.
  • There are school uniform wearing machine-gun hotties.
  • There is a group of "rebels" having trouble with the name of their rebel troop ("Not Dead Yet Battlefront"). They are the expected, stereotypical cast of weirdos. I could go down a checklist. (Glasses guy, violent dude, precious girl, relax-bear, etc., etc.)
  • Their mission is to fight against God. (???)
  • There is a pretty girl with a sword-arm whose goal is to "kill" the dead. The anime uses the word obliterate, but still. 
  • The dead are "obliterated" so that they may be (now this is just the presumption the rebel troops make) reincarnated as sea creatures. 
  • They have a secret hide-out on campus with secret words and booby traps and espionage. 
  • Everyone is ultra-violent, and there is copious blood loss, but all of the injured survive to fight another day (which makes me question the logic of any of it really). 
  • Their enemy, sword-armed Angel (who may actually be an angel) is actually a digital creation in this semi-digital high-school purgatory. (When did it go 0s and 1s?)
  • The first nefarious mission for Not Dead Yet Battlefront is to "shred school lunch tickets." (Yes, from the cafeteria in the afterlife.)
  • The diversion they plan is an impromptu concert from an all-girl rock band. 
I have no freaking idea what is going on anymore. I am so confused! There seems to be some sort of "logic" that's either missing, or escaping me personally. It's a high-school in purgatory? Are there consequences for not attending? Who teaches the classes? Why the elaborate wait-station? Why does someone have to be "killed" there to be reincarnated elsewhere? Why would a dead person have amnesia? What about all the other people populating this "place?" When one character hypothesizes that the non-fighting characters might be NPCs (non-participating characters, like in a role-playing game), that doesn't make things clearer...only more illogical. Why would you need a diversion for NPCs? Why would a NPC, or any of you, need to eat? And if you did need to eat, why eat school lunches? Who is paying for them? Do you have to get a part time job in high-school purgatory? Do you live in the dorms? Who assigns them? Where is the administration? Are Japanese kids so education-minded that they could effectively run and organize a learning institution on their own? What does "god" have to do with this? Is that lady really a computer? Is this like a Tron thing?
Is that Kyo from FuRuBu back there? No. Okay.

Cover Art by Sentai/Aniplex
courtesy of Wikipedia

Now, maybe, just maybe these questions are answered sufficiently in further episodes, but I will never know, because BLEH! Here's what's surprising to me. This is a celebrated anime with very positive reviews and that too baffles me. This review by Theron Martin on applauds the complexity of the series. I agree it is complex, but for me...that complexity seems purposeless, and erratic, and just weird.

This one is a no-go for me, but if you've seen it feel free to chime in and argue for this series. I want to know what I'm missing.

Billy Bat - Naoki Urasawa & Takashi Nagasaki

I started out my storied career of loving graphic stories by reading American comics.

When I was a kid, my dad and brother and I would go to a comic shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan called Eye of Agamotto, and we would spend hours sifting through the comics books bins. The place, in my memory, was a geek's paradise, all full up of comics and image. It was up a flight of stairs and hidden away like in another world. I loved that I was just eye level with the glass cases, the way the wooden floors creaked and noted the shuffle of our shoes, the way it smelled on warm summer afternoons, like paper and books, something mysterious.

My brother and I were going through a GI Joe phase, which was just okay with my dad, a Vietnam Vet who could connect to us through war stories. I think the owner of the place was a vet, too. I wonder, now, if they talked about the war while we wandered through the place.

I was in third grade and my brother in fifth. My brother wanted to go every day because he coveted GI Joe #2, which had a small, shitty run after the first, much touted issue, pretty much flopped. The comic was super expensive and sealed in plastic, and my brother would just stand and stare at it, then whinge about it forever.

I wanted to read it, sure, but it was way out of our price range. So, while my brother oggled his dream comic, I searched the bins. I was, for some reason, really into Howard The Duck, an "existential comic" about a duck from outer space. These were cheap, and my dad bought them for me without much of a fuss. Maybe he was relieved, because I wasn't asking for a pony or dance lessons or GI Joe #2.

Yup, I cut my comic teeth on Howard the Duck. What of it? Thus began my lifelong fascination with comics, geeks, and things you can find in bins. For a long time, I read American comics. Then I switched over primarily to manga, which I've been reading almost exclusively for the last few years. Lately, I've been really in love with manga that feels reflective of my early love of comics, a bit dark, a bit super, a bit human, not all flash lines and giant hearts and eyes, but smart, literary, and fantastic.

Right now, I'm almost finished reading Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys which has so blown me away, that I don't rightly know how to write about it. Last night, in an Urasawa mood,  I started reading scanlations of Billy Bat. I usually read licensed comics, but the art just drew me in with it's slightly American sensibility, and there I was thinking about the stories that started me on comics.

I particularly like the concept of this comic, the story of an American comic book artist, Kevin Yamagata, who is half-Japanese. His comic Billy Bat, the hard boiled story of an anthropomorphized  bat detective, is as popular as any other super hero comic out there. Kevin's success is colored, however, by the fact that he may have accidentally copied the Billy Bat character from another artist in Japan, and he must go to Japan to investigate and prove to himself that he has not stolen the story or character designs.

The story alternates between the Billy Bat story line and Kevin's life and involves mystery on all levels.

I've not yet seen any information about when this comic will be licensed in the United States, but I really hope it is because I'd like to read more.

Only Yesterday - Studio Ghibli

Only Yesterday
Hands down, one of the best things about living in a city is access to good films.

This week, California Theater in Berkeley played host to the full catalog of Studio Ghibli films. I skeeved off work early to go see my favorite, "Only Yesterday," which, next to "Rushmore,"(a Wes Anderson, not Studio Ghibli movie) is my second favorite film. Okay, maybe they both vie for first.

"Only Yesterday," is the story of salary woman Taeko, who, at the age of 27, works in an office in Tokyo and is not yet married. Although, "marriage" as it is, is not the end goal of this film. But, why do I like it. Hmmm, I'm a salary girl working my butwaing off and dreaming of a more pastoral and creative life. Easy. Taeko and I are kindred. She's a sweet, sensitive weirdo. So am I. Her ten-year-old self follows her around. My eight-year-old self follows me around. She's single. I'm single. She's bad at math. Holy Crucifixes! I AM SO BAD AT MATH, especially dividing fractions, which Taeko is really, really bad at.

People who can divide fractions, Taeko says, seem to end up normal. People who cannot, struggle.

YES! Girl, I feel you. What else? Taeko loves farming. She's had her share of city life. Me too. Taeko's family does not understand her. My family does not understand me! Little things affect her lastingly. Really, honestly, want to understand me? Study Taeko.

That aside, what a lovely film. It's done not in a typical "anime" style but more with an eye toward realism. Only in fantasy are the characters stylized. It's a masterpiece of animation and also the kind of narrative  I could imagine in live action.

Dear Hollywood, you will never make this movie as awesomely as the anime, but something in me dares you to try.

It's the kind of movie that would easily translate into a popular plot, rom/dram or com/dram: sweet, smart, single career woman going nowhere but straight to the middle, and not particularly interested in clawing her way to the top, spends a couple of weeks straightening out her city brain on an organic farm. She works through her past while falling in love with an earnest and enthusiastic farmer who only recently left the city to grow organic rice and fruit. The small community falls in love with her, too. Antics/dramas ensue.

Today someone told me that the reason it was not licensed here in the US is because it mentioned menstruation. Yup. Girls get periods, and since this is a coming of age film about a girl, that takes up a large portion of the film, and you know what: it's great. Also: Girls Get Periods!!!! Okay, cool. Now that's out there, see this film. SEE IT. SEE IT. SEE IT.

Highschool of the Dead (Anime): First Impressions

Highschool of the Dead (Yes, one word...I know, I know.)
Writer: Daisuke Soto
Illustrator: Shonji Sato
Sentai Filmworks, 2011.

I love a zombie apocalypse. No really. I love a zombie apocalypse. So much so that if you knew a little bit more about me you'd know that I've been paid to do a lecture on zombie apocalypses and its effects on social order.

Yes, I am a

Here's two reasons the zombie apocalypse is a great idea:

1. It makes everything simple. For example, who cares if your bills are past due? People are dying, man. And Oh, you're having a bad hair day? I'm having a zombie-ate-my-family day. Perspective is a good thing, and the ZA will provide some much needed perspective. Say goodbye to your First-World-Problems, and hello to survival mode.

2. In simplifying the world, including our relationships to one another, the arbitrary social conventions that create friction between groups based on race, culture, gender, etc. fall away...there is no more backwards, binary us v. us confusion! There is only Living and Undead. In establishing a common enemy we more easily recognize our HUMANITY...theoretically. (People are still bad sometimes, and they still cling to the old social orders when it benefits them.)

The effects of the ZA above are clearly illustrated in the animated series Highschool of the Dead, based on the manga series of the same name by Daisuke Soto and Shonji Sato. The setting of a highschool, a place rife with cliques and social stratum, only further emphasizes the message. As with all the best ZA situations, we as viewers are introduced to a group of dissimilar survivors who are thrust together by circumstance: geek and jock, egg-headed perfectionist and clueless bimbo, bad-girl kendo club captain and ridiculously busty assistant librarian, creepy totalitarian teacher and (obligatory) red-shirt-esque zombie fodder. They have to band together to survive...maybe? I'm still early in and that creepy totalitarian teacher, is really, really creepy.

Creepier than zombie hordes!
I have a feeling he will be the antagonist, and a villainous antagonist at that!

Dr. Shido's character seems power-hungry and opportunistic already. I expect his character may very well be representative of the worst humanity has to offer in a ZA situation. There's clear set up for him as adversary and complicating factor in later episodes.

Creepiness aside, this anime is surprisingly beautiful...there's a powerful juxtaposition between the beautiful and bloodthirsty: gorgeous skies and scenery is the backdrop to unflinching depictions of death. The fight scenes are brutal. This is one violent anime. But, it is also deeply emotional in a way that makes more than a few of the characters multi-dimensional from the start. The emotional angst of a few of the characters, and the genuine feel of their reactions was surprising.

I have only one complaint about the series so far: the random upskirt shots and excessive amounts of bouncing breasts are gratuitous, numerous and annoying to no end. Show me the fight scene; I don't care about wobbling fun-bags.

HOTD Trailer 
(Note the sheer amount of panties and breast shots.)

All in all, I think I might keep with this anime, despite my irritation at the T&A (it doesn't make everything better).  The second season of Highschool of the Dead was announced in April 2012, and although rumors were that the announcement was an April Fool's Day joke, there has been information out that one is in the works with no release date confirmed yet.

Random Bonus Factoid:
While looking at the closing credits for HOTD for the Japanese cast and crew, I noticed that there was a position listed as "Art and Literature Support." What is that? And why don't American production companies have such a position? And if they do, why can't I find a job doing that? Because I would be really, really good at it (if I knew what it was).

Stratos 4: The Summer Anime Series, Sunny Summer Sun Times In The Sky Times Sun

Stratos 4 is the dreamiest little anime series. I've had the dvds tucked away for a few years now, and every time I need a breath of fresh air, I throw it on and just sort of chill out.

Blast Off At The Speed of Light!

Let me put it this way, there is an entire episode about their mischievous cat Admiral accidentally stealing a classified memory chip and saving a kitten from another cat bully. That should give you some idea of the gist of the series.

But that's not to say that it's frivolous entirely. There is a plot of sorts. The four main girls are part of a squad that has to break up meteors that enter the earth's atmosphere. There is also a space squad that tries to shoot them down out in space, but when they get through, the girls get called in. There's a whole power-struggle dynamic between the two squads, but for all the build-up it turns out to not be a very big conclusion.

The whole series takes place on a small island towards the bottom of the Japanese archipelago. It's a real island, Shimoji, the voice actresses and production crew visit it in the extras on one of the discs. Being a tropical island, the sense of sunny, slow, dazed, carefree life is prevalent. There's a lot of downtime between blowing up meteorites, apparently.
Where would their air strip be? Your guess is as good as mine.

At its' heart, Stratos 4 is a light-hearted anime about flying, fun, and fanservice. And there is a little bit of fanservice. Other than the occasional, very sparingly used, panty-flash, the girls fly their planes, riding in the cockpit motorcycle-style.
Maybe it makes it easier to pilot the planes.

This is about the extent of le sexiness, barring a few awkward lesbian space encounters.

I don't really have too much else to say about the series, because the main point of my review is the sunny, pleasant feeling it gives you while watching.

Don't expect Stratos 4 to come at you with any big ideas, crazy plots, or really anything out of the ordinary. Do expect to be relaxed and calmed into a tropical lull by cute, occasionally annoying pilot girls running around a gorgeous island. Do expect to be jealous, and want to visit aforementioned gorgeous island.

Memories - Katsuhiro Otomo (anime review)

I don't know if I've even reviewed anime before for this blog. That's kind of appropriate, as my tastes tend towards manga, generally. The tactile experience of holding the newsprint, touching it, smelling it, imbibing the drawings...all of it appeals to me.

However, I do make time to watch a fair amount of anime. I really enjoy the films, not that I don't like some series, but I love an animated film. Kind of like the movie version of the one-shot manga.

Memories is actually three short films. The first is called Magnetic Rose, the second is Stink Bomb, and the third is Cannon Fodder. Each of these really could stand alone and are drastically different in tone, animation style, theme, and writing.

Magnetic Rose is my personal favorite of the three. I am apparently alone in this, virtually everyone else prefers one of the other two.

Probably spoilers beyond this point. Due warning has been given.

In MR, a crew of space-scrap-salvagemen are out in space, looking for scrap. To salvage. They receive an S.O.S. from a mysterious ship, and two of the guys roll out to go save someone/see if they can snag the ship for salvage.

As soon as they get inside, shit gets strange. The inside of the ship (which is called the Magnetic Rose) is sort of a spaceborn Versailles. Huge, sprawling chambers and long, flowing staircases. Room after room of glorious, decaying opulence.

They quickly find out the ship belonged to a famous opera singer, Eva Rose, who basically had a flying fortress built so she could live out her glory days in space.

Unfortunately, her glory days turn a little...The Shining-y. As the Eagles say, "you can check out any time you want, but you can never leave."

Their descent into the ship is accompanied by an ever-increasing magnetic field. Everything is being sucked towards the Magnetic Rose, including the salvage ship.

Inside, the memories of Eva Rose run the ship. Her memories mix with those of the salvage men, and they experience hellish hallucinations. Children falling to their death, over and over. Their souls are twisted and broken inside the Magnetic Rose.

The ship itself has become a living beast, absorbing and manipulating everything inside to fit the distorted singer's desires. She even has an avatar, running and flying around the ship.

All of this leads up to a very dramatic end, it's all very thrilling. But none of this really gives you an idea of why this one is my favorite.

It is a difficult thing to describe. The film runs roughly fifty minutes, relatively short. The animation style is fine but vaguely dated. I think one of the things that really makes me love this movie is the feeling of kinship between it and 2001: A Space Odyssey. If you haven't seen Kubrick's masterpiece, I don't know, you're not doing a very good job at life. But they both have this sense of...epic feels too tawdry to describe it. There is a sense of Divine Purpose, as absurd as it for me to say that.

The entire film is backed by Eva Rose's opera, sweeping and blaring, dramatic and poignant. The characters are entirely believable, the dialogue is perfectly in sync with the characters. All the technical details are assured, you don't have to worry about them. The story is too important to fuck up stupid details like weak dialogue. Watching the main salvager try to catch his daughter as she falls to her death, you feel your heart plummet. Watching him paw at the ground through the hologram of her bleeding out at his feet, your heart hits the center of the earth. As Eva Rose's ghost toys with him, you feel rage rising up inside you.

And at the end, you think to yourself, "At least he wasn't a part of her fantasy."


Part of me wants to say, "And there were two other movies. The end."

but that's not fair. I'll give the other two due credit, they are also excellent films in their own rights.

Stink Bomb. Easily my least favorite of the three. Let me just say, you come off this incredible high from Magnetic Rose, one of the most powerful, excellent anime shorts you could ever watch, and you're just supposed to roll right into f*cking Stink Bomb.

Stink Bomb is really light-hearted. It has a message, about chemical/biological warfare, but wrapped in kind of an annoying package of goofiness. The main character, his name didn't even come close to sticking in my mind, is an IDIOT. That's not a huge deal, I mean, we've all read books with silly and dumb main characters. I even like a lot of series with them. Naruto, for instance, is pretty dumb and goofy but it's one of the best-selling, most popular series ever put out. The problem here is that he has no real redeeming qualities other than blissful ignorance and a preternatural ability to avoid death.

Basically, the dude has a cold, takes a pill, turns out the pill was an experimental bioweapon that turns him into a walking, breathing cloud o' death. *rolls eyes*

He kills everyone in the building, and doesn't have any idea it's him. He then gets told to bring the rest of the pills to a city nearby by an administrator who also doesn't know he's taken the pill and is the cause of the disaster.

You can pretty much surmise the rest of this movie. He tries to get to the city, they all realize he's the cause, and they throw all their military might against him. It is, admittedly, vaguely amusing to watch him dodge missiles and somehow survive on a little Vespa.

I don't know what else to say about it. It took me three tries to watch it, every time I tried to, I would fall asleep. That's how I feel.


Okay, Cannon Fodder! Back to a good short!

Cannon Fodder switches art styles again, to a very gritty, not-very-Japanese style. There isn't a ton of dialogue in it, but it does very well putting together the story visually.

In this sort of Orwellian dystopia, everyone lives and dies under a bunch of huge, towering cannons. They all work for them in some capacity, loading them, firing them. The shells are the size of large trucks, and there is a lot of inherent danger.

There is this interesting social element to it, because the loaders are sort of at the bottom, the controllers are above them, and then the firing man is at the top of it all. The women all go off to factories to put together munitions. If a crew screws up something, their punishment is to stand on the firing platform and get blasted by the shockwave.

The slogan is NO CONQUEST WITHOUT LABOR. Everyone stands and salutes and chants when the cannon fires.

In this world of war, everyone accepts it without question. There is an invisible enemy, and they must be fired upon. It's simply what they do. That's what makes this interesting, seeing the lives of individuals who are being ground to pieces by the machine they slave to run.

This set of shorts can be picked up anywhere for really cheap, I think I paid $3 for mine. A dollar each for three good movies? When Magnetic Rose is worth the price of entry on its own? Yes please. :)

Spice and Wolf (anime)

Imigin/Funimation 2008
Based on the light novel series (11 volumes) by Isuna Hasekura (writer) and Ju Ayakura (ill.)
Rating: PG-13 (A little bit of wolf-girl nudity, and a little bit of violence)


There are two kinds of werewolves in the world. The ones we are most familiar with are the kinds that are people first, cursed by fate or a bite or any number of "causes" these people transform from human into animal and wreak havoc on others. The second kind of werewolf is a different thing altogether a wolf who, through magic or kindness or age or wisdom or courage (there are a lot of stories), becomes a human in order to assist humanity in some way. Sadly, we don't see very many depictions of these kinds of werewolves, but there are cultures (surprisingly, or maybe unsurprisingly, because of isolation and turmoil, my Appalachian culture is one of them) who look to these werewolves as kindred spirits and protectors. I love stories about these kinds of werewolves, so I actually write about them a lot.

The wolf in Spice and Wolf is a god. Holo, the wise wolf, has been blessing the town of Pasloe with abundant harvests of wheat for over 600 years, but times change. Old gods fall, and new religions arise, and new technologies come into play. When the story begins it seems that the need for Holo's blessings have fallen to the wayside and the town of Pasloe is held in suspicion by the new Christian Church for it's pagan ways. Holo knows it is time to go. She sheds her wolf-skin and sneaks her way into the back of a travelling merchant's cart where Kraft Lawrence discovers her, looking all of 16 and naked but for her tail and ears. 

Overall, I'm going to say the story is good, but Holo is weird. And bossy, and drunk, and naked, and kind of all...naughty for apples.
Holo has a thing for apples. 

And Kraft Lawrence is a little strange too. He's a shifty merchant with a heart of gold who I am supposed to feel sympathetic towards. He does seem like a gentle guy, but he's also a bit of a con-man who takes advantage of his customers and his fellow merchants.

Don't you try that innocent look with me. 
Around the middle of the first season I got excited by some brief discussions of Church dogma and pagan persecution, but sadly none of that story line really seemed to pan out at all. That disappointment combined with some rather "odd" discussions about trades, tariffs and monetary exchange rates that were either generally confusing, or way over my head, to create my wishy-washy reaction to the series as a whole. It needed something...more oompf, more direction, less discussion of medieval guild practices, more burning pagans at the stake...something, anything. It was, sadly, kind of a let-down.

But, the animation is pretty, and the series wasn't a total bore. Plus there's the fact that the closing credit song is perhaps one of the cutest I've ever heard (and it's a total earworm). It could be vying with _Furubu_ for cutest ending song ever. Just...just, hit play:

Did you hit play? Okay. Now, can we talk about this? OMG, I KNOW, RIGHT? Supercute! Done.

All in all, I don't know that I'm rushing out to watch the second season, named Spice and Wolf II, but I will share the trailer. The second season aired last summer on the Funimation Channel. 

I wish it were meaner werewolves. 

The Dark Side

Angsty much?
Sometimes it's easy to forget the awesomeness of adulthood. Yeah, I said it, but it's true. When you're an old lady, a singleton with few real obligations, you get to get to manage your own life. You define your own obstacles. You decide what's important, when to have fun, and when to be a total stick in the mud. Of course, it also means things like, you have to go to work to support yourself; you really should be available to the people that you care about and the people that care about you; you have to get groceries, pay bills, grumble about politics, and shake your fist at young pimple faced skateboarders in the park.

The last few months, I've been letting myself fall into the "being an adult sucks" version of being an adult, you know the: This commute sucks! I can't do this alone! Get off my lawn! side of being an adult. This is not awesome. I also feel like I'm always scowling and wearing black and listening to sad power music with great lyrics. I spend a lot of time goal setting and goal failing, riding trains and making up narratives about my fellow passengers while wondering if I'll ever pay off my student loans. Yuck! The fact is, I'm in a messy space. And my tastes have followed suit.

It's not surprising that I'm not reading much Yaoi lately or even just regular ol' run of the mill adorable Shonen and Shojo manga. I'm reading the French Films of manga, the dark stuff, the unhappy, tortured, arty stuff, and I LOVE IT!

My favorite manga artist right now is Yoshihro Tatsumi, and if you haven't read his collections of manga published mostly by Drawn and Quarterly, I highly recommend you do. I think my last post was about  The Push Man and Other Stories, and while this remains my favorite, I've picked up a few other great volumes since then.

Abandon the Old in Tokyo is an excellent collection. The centerpiece story resonated with me. It's about young man who grows up with an abusive mother who falls ill later in life. Forced to care for her in a way he was never cared for, the son consistently sacrifices himself for her. When he falls in love, he finally decides to abandon his mother in the most cruel way, so he can marry his girlfriend, but guilt pulls him back. Good-Bye contains some longer, darker stories. I loved "Sky Burial," a particularly well illustrated story about death and nature.

I'm also working on Osamu Tezuka's Book of Human Insects, which also seems suitably dark to match my mood. I'd love some recommendations for some great, deep, dark, angsty, arty manga! Anyone?

About Love (Manga)

Written and Illustrated by Narise Konohara
Publisher: June
Rating: YA 16+

Aw, someone's sad because they're shopping for wedding dresses.
I know that feel, bro.
Aswaka is a wedding planner and Sasagawa and his wife were his first clients. Aswaka was unsure of his profession, but this couple inspired a passion in him and he continued his career to become a highly sought after wedding planner. In his mind Sasagawa and his wife became the archetypal couple...the perfect wife, the perfect husband, the perfect couple. But when he runs into Sasagawa alone a handful of times, and the two of them strike up a friendship, Asaka discovers that not everything is as it seems. 

Sasagawa had a crush on his wife in high school, but he was far below her interest, it was years later when they ran into each other during a homecoming that they reconnected...but their marriage is a front. She had a female lover and needed to get married to claim an inheritance, and poor Sasagawa, still head over heels for this woman, agreed to the charade. In his heart he believed that if he were the perfect husband, that eventually she'd see his love and devotion and return it. 

No, there isn't, Asaka.
I worry about 30 year old men all the time.
Asaka is floored when he learns of their marriage and pities Sasagawa's situation. Like he says, "being in a fake marriage with someone you really love--it's so unfortunate, its laughable." Asaka is the accidental witness to Sasagawa's breakdowns, and their friendship deepens as they support each other emotionally over the years. Then, because this is yaoi, well, they become romantically entangled.

Here's the thing, I like Asaka, but Sasagawa is a sad sack.  Normally I love a damaged character, and the damage here seems real, but Sasagawa is weak and needy, and too ready to take a backseat to everyone around him. I suppose there's an innocence there that's a little endearing, but he's so much like a kicked puppy that it unnerves me. 
Oh, my god, nut up!!!!
This man needs a wah-mbulance!

One of the most interesting aspects of this manga is the sort of unaware love that grows between the two characters in moments when they shore each other up.  Unlike those annoying yaoi, "Oh, suddenly and without any hesitation I'm gay" moments (because that's so realistic--sarcasm), the development of love between the characters is slow paced and feels genuine.  They just enjoy one another's company; they take comfort in one another; their love grows slowly and very, very cautiously--after all Sasagawa is a wounded man.  Both of them then run from the idea that their friendship is anything more...but to no avail.

More than anything this is a story about loneliness, and the hard truths about love--that it doesn't always work out, that it takes work and patience--the gender of the characters doesn't matter to those truths. It is the timidity (and to some degree the embarrassment) of this unlikely couple, that ultimately saves this slow-paced manga. Don't go looking for sexytimes here, or adventurous/aggressive'll be disappointed. But, if you're looking for something a little more realistic, and if you don't mind a bit of drunken man-sobbing, then this might be worth a read. 

Ta-Ta Tuesday: The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (Anime?)

Ta-Ta Tuesday: The Haunted World of El Superbeasto
Written and Directed By: Rob Zombie
 Starz Media, 2009
Rating: MA (gore, sex, language, violence)

Luchadors! Bewbs! Paul Giamatti...what?!

Although this is an animated feature which is not necessarily an anime, I’m reviewing it anyway.

My brother (31 years old) put this on the tv (courtesy of Netflix) while my mom (61) and I (37) were sitting in the living room. In the first five minutes a masked wrestler, El Superbeasto, has a threesome with two pornstars and kills them mid-coitus when they are revealed to be a vampire and a werewolf. 

Here is my mother’s brief review: “Why are we watching cartoon porn? You shouldn’t be watching this with your sister and your mom. You’re gross.”

At this point she immediately vacated the living room to read Fifty Shades of Grey on the front porch without a hint of irony. When my sister (34) got home my mother announced, “They’re watching cartoon titties in there, be warned.” We weren’t. At that point I turned it off.

There are a LOT of cartoon titties in El Superbeasto…and they look weirdly like the old seventies style baby bottle nipples. They are also quite buoyant.  And they do tricks…they punch people. Titty punch! So if you like cartoon boobies, 9th grade jokes and you aren't super interested in a plot, then this is for you.

Plot: Dr. Satan has to mate with and marry a stripper named Velvet von Black marked with a 666 birthmark in order to obtain the “bubbly” power of hell. El Superbeasto, our hero who also happens to be a lucador, just wants to hump her.

Subplot: El Superbeasto’s Sister, Suzi X (voiced by Sheri Moon Zombie), and her horny robot/vehicle steal Hitler’s head before agreeing to assist El Superbeasto in saving Velvet…Suzi is being chased by Zombie Nazis, and her robot is a pervert.

Highlights: A tie between the song “Zombie Nazis Fucking With my Day Now” and “Why’d You Have to Rip-Off Carrie”

Cameos: Characters from House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, Paul Giamatti, and Harlan Williams (why?)

Lowpoint: A tie between an army of rats being expelled from a cartoon anus and a Bennie Hill  montage.  

Recommendation: Watch it if you’re bored or if you’re a fan of the comic (yes, it is a comic), but avoid watching it with your brother (no matter how old he is) and/or in front of your mom (no matter what she’s reading) because it can be uncomfortable.

So--So Sunday: Curve (manga)

Written and Illustrated by Noriko Tsubota
Trans. by Allen Laney, and The Knights of the Eastern Calculus
Publisher: DMG
Rating: T
The art is nice.
I have no idea why Curve is the title...
it has absolutely nothing to do with the manga.

I feel bad about submitting this as a So-So Sunday post, but Curve really is just so-so. The artwork is beautiful, the translator seems to have done a great job (well-written),'s almost like the story isn't all there.

Tatsu works at at detective agency during the day and an art gallery at night, but he gets thrown for a loop when his two jobs collide and he ends up working for a sculptor. This manga has a lot of stuff: angry dads, jilted women, mistaken identity, cons, rich people, espionage...Hooray!

There's also a Ghost-esque clay throwing fantasy (which I highly disapprove of). 

You'd become a jug, or a vase, or a bowl, most likely. 

Oh, and neither one knows they are in lurve.

I tease, but in a lot of ways this story, despite the ridiculous mistaken identity trope, is pretty simple, and doesn't have a single scene that feels squee-worthy. It isn't the art or the translation that makes this's the story itself. The plot is weird. There are some early hints about the main character's dark past that never resurface at all. There seems to be little motivation for some reactions, like the main character running away to America. All in all...I'm left wondering why characters are behaving the way they're behaving, and not in an interesting way.

So-What Sunday: Girl’s Bravo (Anime)

1st Season
Funimation 2004

Already I am annoyed. 

In season one, episode one of Girls Bravo, we are introduced to main character, Yukimari Sasaki. Sasaki lives alone. He is also short and scared of girls because he’s bullied by them. He breaks out into a rash whenever he’s near a girl, which I am sure is a euphemism for sexual arousal along the lines of the ubiquitous “nosebleed.” 

Unfortunately, the girl next door, Kojima (who has “breasts the size of small pork buns”…yes, that is a quote), keeps bugging the crap out of him and beating him up. With the background info out of the way (establishing Sasaki as a whiny bag of beat-down), the "story" (my quotes this time, they are ironic) begins as Kojima knocks him out and he falls into the tub. Then he gets sucked into a world populated mostly by women, but those women do not make him break out in a rash. Hooray or something. In this other world he is a hot commodity and his allergy is non-existent.

Oh, my bad, is this your tub?
Too bad that on his return trip a naked girl from that world is transported back to earth with him…HIJINKS! 

This anime is described as a sexy romp. It is not one. It is a ta-ta filled harem anime, and I think the intended audience is teenagers, because it’s too childishly lame for adults, and too racy for kids, but then again I am pretty immature, and my first reaction was, “This is dumb.” So, I stopped watching…take that for what it’s worth I suppose. 

The End . 

P.S. If you're into anime bewbs, you can google image the title with safe search off and there are ta-tas aplenty to be seen. Enjoy! 

Arata: The Legend (manga)--First Impressions

Arata The Legend (Manga) First Impressions

Writer and Illustrator: Yuu Watase
Translator: JN Productions
Publisher. Shogakukan, Inc. 2009
Rating: Teen, and found in the middle school section of my local library...SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARIES!

Get ready for an time-travelling, inter-planatary,
body-switching, demon sword wielding,
gender -ending, high-school dramady!

I’m about to ruin this book for you. Fair warning. 

Arata is the last descendant of the Hime clan, and every 30 years a female of the Hime clan must be enthroned as princess of the realm through a “sacred ritual." These princesses are possessed by something called Amatsuriki Power, which controls the Haygami (gods of their world who embody demonic swords).  Arata’s grandmother claimed Arata as a girl because all male Hime children are put to death by royal decree, and I guess no one notices that he's a boy (because clearly he IS a boy, and everyone knows it).  Due to this intentional switcharoo, Arata is forced to act as a girl, and is called to become princess. Arata attends the ritual and his disguise is paying off until the former princess is assassinated by a group bent on revolution. They blame the murder on Arata, whose gender is exposed during the melee (his shirt is cut away to reveal a lack of girl parts).

Meanwhile in futuretimes (like now here on earth times), a Japanese high school student who is also named Arata is finding it hard to cope with his new school. He switched schools because he was so relentlessly bullied at the last school (oddly, he is bullied because he is handsome, smart and good at sports), and suddenly his chief tormentor arrives out of the blue to make him miserable. Luckily (?) he gets sucked into Arata #1’s world and is mistaken for him (although they look nothing alike). And it turns out that the spirits of the Haygami choose Arata #2 as their warrior.

Do they look alike? Of course! They're identical!
Who wouldn't confuse Arata #1 with Arata #2?

Meanwhile in futuretimes again, Arata #1 winds up in Arata #2’s world. They communicate through a portal powered by some necklace thingie and Arata #1 refuses to switch back because he believes that Arata #2 can defeat the baddies and save the world.

Meanwhile in backtimes, Arata #2 fights a lot of people and the half-dead princess asks him to rule in her place and find her. Arata #1 doesn’t pop back up again for the rest of the issue, so who knows what kind of crap he's made out of Arata #2's life?

You get it, Dear Readers, this is a silly manga that does not seem to accept its own silliness. I'd like to tell this manga to just be itself, and stop with the serious scenes, because really...a time-travelling, inter-planatary, body-switching, demon sword wielding, gender -ending, high-school story should be a comedy (let's leave the drama to the dramas, okay?). 

One thing I did appreciate about this manga, is the discussion of belief in oneself and others. Neither Arata wants to let anyone down; both are powered by trying to live up to the beliefs others place in them. This is a rather noble little series, and provides some nice messages to its intended young adult audience about confidence, persistence, honor, friendship and kindness.  

Because I am not the intended audience here I might not continue the series, but do want to point out some of the good things. It is well written and well translated. The illustrations are very nice, but a little busy at times. The story itself is unique enough and compelling enough to have kept me reading to the end of the issue (which is a step in the right direction). The bad things have more to do with a lack of development of the side-characters…they seem to be less characters than standard types of characters. That isn’t always a bad thing, and it may be more symptomatic of a simplification of character based on audience, but the series is going to have to complicate them just a bit even for teens, I think. Otherwise, people may have a difficult time relating to them. I know I did.

I would classify this as a sort of beginner’s manga. If this were the first manga I had ever picked up I would be interested, but being an old salty lady who reads a ton, it seems a little flat and a little predictable (oh, when  a time-travelling, inter-planatary, body-switching, demon sword wielding, gender -bending, high-school  dramadies become predictable there is a problem).  It isn’t stellar, but it is readable, and the teen girls will think Arata #2 is super-cute. So, there’s that. 

Questions this manga inspired:
1. Why do all hot bad guys with swords lick the edges of their swords? Is that like a sexual thing? Oh, I’m dangerous and sexy, watch me seduce this hunk of metal!
2. Who knew melee was spelled like that? Not me.
3. Did I just pick up this manga because of the title? My housemate’s middle name is Arata.  
4. Why did I keep thinking that Justin Bieber should play Arata#2 in a live-action version of this?

Sandbox Games vs. Anime: Why they have a lot in common, and why anime is a million miles ahead

I've been playing Saints Row 2 for about the past week. I know, it's the clunky little brother with snot hanging out his nose, tagging around behind Grand Theft Auto, screaming, "Look at me! You can play as a green Amazoness! Or whatever!", but I've sunk too many hours into GTA and needed something fresh.

But this is neither the time nor place for a review of SR2, because this is a site for anime/manga. And naturally, every breath I take, I compare what I'm actively doing to anime/manga. If I'm actually watching or reading it, I compare it to other anime/manga. So while playing Saints Row, I got to thinkin', which can be dangerous. I thought, this is some sort of weird release of social id. It's extremely gratifying and relaxing to do whatever the hell you want without consequences. Hop in a car, do the speed limit. Or hop in a car, drop the pedal, and cruise down the sidewalk and watch the bodies soar gracefully through the air. Neither affects the game very much, the cops don't even chase you until you run over a cop, which is pretty rare. My point is, playing this game is a release of instincts that are socially unacceptable.

Isn't anime exactly the same thing? The collective world of anime and manga is like the biggest sandbox game you could possibly imagine. Except, the wildest and most fucked-up shit you could possibly do in Grand Theft Auto is literally child's play to this world. (Literally, I could tick off a half-dozen series with killers who are kids, Black Lagoon, DeadMan Wonderland, Darker Than Black, Naruto, Shaman King, Amnesia, Jack Frost, the list goes on). There's a whole world of hentai that makes the infamous "Hot Coffee" glitch look like a particularly banal episode of the Teletubbies. The body count is innumerable, in fact, the body count has occasionally extended to complete annihilation of the entire human race. A Billion Needles, anyone? (I think that's what happened :P)

Imagine all of anime happening in the same sphere of existence. I know, this is a stretch. Play along. If all of these series represent a release of social stressors in the same way that sandbox games do, then isn't anime a wildly more effective and established release?

What do you think? Anime and manga as a release? :)

Flowers of Evil: Kids are Scary, yo

This is the sadist. Look at those weird eyes.
She could do anything. F*cking horrifying.
Recently, I had the weird pleasure of picking up the first volume of a new manga series called The Flowers of Evil. In general, this was good manga. But when you read it, you feel a little...uneasy.

I've been trying to put a finger on the source of my discomfort with this book for a few days now. The story is not terribly complex. A middle-school boy is a voracious reader with a superiority complex, who likes a cute girl in his class. One day after school, he finds himself face-to-face with her gym bag, and swipes her clothes. Unfortunately, it turns out the class sadist saw him do it.

I think this is where I'm on unsure footing. The class sadist is a really, really weird little girl. She's antisocial and she calls everyone a "shitbug", which is a bizarre way of swearing to me. She tortures the main boy, for no particular reason. All of that is a little on the weird side, but none of it is very far from par for the course for manga. The girl is....flat. There's an unpredictability in the story that's really weird. I can't say why, but having a character who doesn't conform to any of the normal manga standards is scary, in a bad way. Sadistic characters act this way in manga, victims act this way, and there's a certain comfort in knowing that the twists and turns will come out of the story and out of the situations, not out of the characters.

Maybe I'm just too old. Maybe I'm going through my late-in-life crisis, and I'm scared of change. But a character who to me, seems completely without borders, is alarming and makes me not want to get attached to anyone else in the story. I'm not saying that she couldn't be a madman or a killer or just a twisted person, I'm saying that there's no sense of who she is at all and that is, for me, patently wrong.

Perhaps in the next volume, her character will get nailed down and a backstory will come out, and she can be a real person. Until then, I'm not holding my breath or getting too attached to any of the main characters.

Also, this is just like reading a more tame version of Sundome. It's more tame so far. Hope it stays tame,  unless they skip time past middle school.

The Pushman and Other Stories - Yoshihiro Tatsumi

If you've ever been to a manga store or even a comics shop, you've probably seen Yoshihiro Tatsumi's comic A Drifting Life. The volume is huge and the cover has an image of a manga artist bent over and drawing. That book, an autobiographical exploration of the artist's life, was drawn over a decade and is considered a classic, which is probably why it is so ubiquitous.

I have never read it.

I've always wanted to, but I always encounter the book most inconvienantly, normally when I'm on foot and already have way too much in my backpack. I usually give the book a once over, wish I owned it, and move on. Still, I've always been curious about Tatsumi. His art is simple, not your typical manga, which I've been steering away from lately anyhow. When I had the opportunity to pick up The Pushman and Other Stories republished by Drawn and Quarterly, I did so without hesitation.

This book isn't for everyone, but it is for me. It's dark. It's sick. It's slightly absurdest. Think Kafka meets Lars von Trier and Patricia Highsmith for tea and some pen and ink drawings.

For example, "The Pushman," the title story of the collection, is a short piece about a man who has the job of pushing commuters onto trains in order to pack them as full as possible. Anyone who has ever ridden a full commuter train or bus can testify to the anxiety, however short lived, induced in such a situation.

In "The Pushman," this feeling is pervasive. At one point, the pushman helps a woman who tears her blouse in the commute frenzy. They go on a date and sleep together. Later, she introduces the Pushman to her girlfriends, who rip and tear at him in a sexual frenzy reminiscent of the heated, tight, urgent commute.

Later, the Pushman finds himself pushed onto one of the trains by accident. Squashed between squirming human bodies, he proclaims, "I'm a Pushman."

I read this story on BART. It gave me the hee bee jee bees.

I think these stories are brilliant. You will not, however, if you can't handle sex, violence, human failings or aborted babies. Consider carefully before reading.

And Now for Something Last Minute... "Artifice" by Alex Woolfson

Since some of us are big fans of yaoi here at Squeefinity, I thought I'd recommend checking out an American webcomic that takes on the genre. You might consider Alex Woolfson and Winona Nelson's Artifice currently available online. Here is what the author has to say about the story:

Artifice is about Deacon, a prototype android soldier so advanced he is referred to as an "artificial person." On one of his first missions, Deacon was ordered by his corporate masters to eliminate a team of scientists who knew too much—and he has failed spectacularly. Not only did he let one of the targets live, he attacked the team sent to retrieve him. Now the Corporation wants answers and they bring in the brilliant robopsychologist Dr. Clarice Maven to get them—giving her the power to make sure Deacon never fails the Corporation ever again.

As Deacon tries to keep his secrets and the doctor cuts through his defenses, a cunning game of cat-and-mouse begins. The question is: will Deacon be able to resist Dr. Maven’s power and protect the only thing that has ever truly mattered to him?

Sounds pretty good to me! I've been a bit down on some yaoi lately because it seems to fall straight into hentai or pron. What I'm looking for is a good thought provoking story where the main characters just happen to be gay. So, yeah! Good for this one. I look forward to reading it, and I hope you do, too.

And for those with more interest, the author is running a very soon to be finished Kickstarter, which you can support!

Winchester Wednesday: Post Season 1 Anime Wrapup

First, hello Dear Readers, long-time no Squee.

I've been gone forever, and have no better excuse than "life got in the way." I hate when that happens. Why can't people leave me alone and let me do my thing? Ah, such is life (imagine I'm French when you read that). Apparently I've been gone long enough for Mr. Empty to accuse me of killing one of his children...which is okay, because one of his children is a super-annoying, self-referential anime series named Excel Saga. Your kid is annoying--shut that brat up! I'll post a rebuttal to his rebuttal soon. In the meantime I'm offering up this sad and depressing review of the first season of Supernatural: The Anime.

Again, I'll remind you that way back in the way back machine, when rumors had begun to stir about the Supernatural  anime, I was thrilled. How could I not be? All I could think of was possibility. But possibility, Dear Readers, filled me with hopes that did not pan out. My dreams of what might have been were dashed.
By what?

By this:

This little clip posted on Youtube is of, as the title says, "the first brotherly love moment," in the anime. Watch it.  This is supposed to be a emotional moment, right? So why does it feel like Padalecki is just reading off a page, and the person reading Ackles' part hasn't ever seen the show? Where's the emotion?

There are a few problems with this anime.  The whole thing makes me sad and angry. I've been duped! Hornswaggled! It was a bait and switch!

Problem one: 
Jared Padalecki, who plays Sam Winchester. He's not the most emotive actor in the world. If I'm being honest, that last sentence is me trying very hard to be nice. He's...not a very good actor. He has like five facial expressions, and each of them is a little unconvincing. I felt this way about him when he was in Gilmore Girls as well. (Yes, I watched Gilmore Girls, but in my defense, I did not enjoy it and I do not like the turns out my husband really, really does. Why? I have no idea. Like none. It's awful.)  Padalecki is very athletic, so that's good. And he's cute. I'll admit he's cute. But, he reads lines like he's reciting them for a school play, and relies on Ackles to carry the emotional weight of the scene. Ackles makes Padalecki a better actor. So, now, with the anime, Padalecki has an even tougher be convincing and realistic ONLY using his voice. He does not pull it off. It's weird and wooden and offputting. Sam's not always the most likable character anyway, which is what makes him and the series interesting, but he is redeemed because he is emotional (well, we're told he is) despite his selfishness (Sam you are so selfish!) and questionable morals at times. His performance is, I'll say it, a mess. An unconvincing mess.

Problem two: 
No Jensen Ackles, who plays Dean Winchester. Ackles was busy doing voice work for another project and could ONLY devote enough time to do the voices in the last two episodes, which were...SURPRISE!...better than all the previous episodes combined. Finally, there was some real emotion being voiced. Even Padalecki seemed more relaxed somehow, or at least he didn't suck as much.  Now lest you think that I'm just so Ackles infatuated that "no one else can play Dean"...well, maybe, but there's more than that. He's a good actor. Dean is a difficult role. Really. His emotions are wild and uncontrolled. He's a mix of arrogance and vulnerability. He's a lot of contradictions. And no one should be able to pull off a performance of a character that complex and have it feel genuine. When Dean's heart breaks, my heart breaks...and that's Ackles fault.

Problem three: 
I had high expectations, and I'll admit that may have swayed my response to the series. It just had so much potential, and yet...bleh. The reason my review of season one took so long to complete is that I got bored with it, and kept putting off watching the remaining episodes. That's bad. If there is a target audience for a Supernatural  anime...well, I'm it. I AM THE AUDIENCE! I couldn't have been tailor made for such a role. If your ideal audience is bored enough to step away and not return, then you have a problem. I'l admit to having watched the whole series of Supernatural more than once. I'll also admit to watching some of my favorite episodes multiple (as in more than 5) times. And I don't get bored. I notice new things--it's always interesting. But this? This was NOT interesting. And it should have been. If it can't keep my attention it is doing something wrong. Part of me knows the voice acting is to blame. Part of it is the animation style was okay, not beautiful, not chilling, not unique, just...there. Part of it was the lack of innovation. The writers and animators had carte blanche to do whatever they wanted here. They could start with the characters and reinvent parts of the story-line, throw them new curve balls, dig deeper into the situation. Instead, most of it wasn't much different than what was in the live-action series, minus a few original episodes that didn't do much for me. The pacing was slow and it didn't move forward with the same emotional impetus as the original. All in all, it did the same things as the live-action series, only it didn't do them as well.

Problem four: 
Sometimes when a story crosses mediums, say from book to movie, or in this case live-action series to anime...bad choices are made. I can remember feeling this way with quite a few book to movie scenarios.
Let's use an example of Anne Rice's Queen of the Damned. I'm a geeky creepster, so I loved this book. And it's exciting, it could have made an excellent film, but two bad things happened. If you had read the book you walked away from the movie angry because so much was left out. Oh, what do you mean Armand is an important character? He was just some guy who never talked and was in two scenes of the film, just hanging out in the background. So, book fans...are mad. But what if you aren't a book fan? Well, for some reason Queen of the Damned relied on some knowledge of the book, because it made a lot of assumptions about what viewers knew about the plot and characters. So, people who didn't read the book are just lost...and therefore mad. EVERYONE LOSES! I feel the same way about Supernatural: The Anime. Fans like me are annoyed that it isn't as good as it could be, and new viewers...I don't know how they'd follow along. I'm tempted to force someone (but I won't because it could be misconstrued as torture) who knows nothing about Supernatural  to watch the anime, just so I can ask them if they understand what's going on. Right now, I'm not sure that they couldn't follow the plot, or figure out the characters, but my gut reaction is that anyone not already knowing something about the series would just be confused. And I don't mean confused in a, ooh Davinci Code kind of way, more in a...what's going on here? Who is that again? Why do I care at all?...kind of way.

The whole viewing experience makes me sad. I don't want to have to give this series a negative review, but I have no choice.

And that is sad.
Don't cry, Dean. I still love you.
We'll just pretend the anime never happened. 

So-Good Sunday: The Rebuttal of Dr. M's Misguided Post on Excel Saga: or How I Learned to Stop Caring and Love the Madness

Excel Saga is my child.

Perhaps that statement requires a bit of explanation. Every otaku has a special series, might not be the best in the world, but every single one has a series that is near and dear to them, because it was one of the first that they followed. I have two: Lain and Excel Saga. They are my childs. :P

Lain was probably the first anime series that I ever watched and was truly, truly blown away by. (The actual first series was Shaman King, back on FOX. Glory days, glory days....). Excel Saga, on the other hand, was the first series that I watched and was so cracked up by it that I practically pissed myself every five minutes.

I have to admit one concession about Excel Saga, the manga is far superior to the anime, and the anime takes some liberties and leaves out a lot of material that would have been much better had they not decided to mess with the formula. There's some stuff about the anime that makes my skull hurt, like, idk, CHANGING VOICE ACTORS EXCEL HALFWAY THROUGH THE SERIES. That pissed me off but good.The Great Will of the Macrocosm is a mystery to me. I have no idea what that was about, it's actually totally at odds with the manga, because in the manga, one of the main running jokes and a point of great amusement is Excel's fantastic ability to never die, despite being put through the paces in a number of ways. So, Great Will's constant reviving after Excel gets killed...bad kill on the producer's part. There's also a lot more fourth wall breakage that I don't know that I approve of. All in all, READ THE MANGA, OKAY?

Because, the manga is brilliant. Everything good about the anime, is in the manga. Everything bad in the anime, is not in the manga. There's also an entire surplus of good things in there, just for fun!!!!

For example! There's some amazing characters and backstories. Ropponmatsu and Ropponmatsu II are more present, everyone loves those homicidal androids, right? Also, there's a lot more of Dr. Kabapu and the ever-growing fight between him and Il Palazzo. The fight, by the way, gets huge and completely insane. There are some really crazy implications for these characters so far, and in one section Dr. Kabapu and Il Palazzo both run electronics corporations and go at it economically!

Also, as I recall, Dr. M's post was a Ta-Ta Tuesday. There are a plethora of fine ta-tas to be had in the manga, even more so than the anime. For example, Elgala, who joins Hyatt and Excel, has a sizable chest and flaunts it as often as possible. Elgala is another example of why you should read the manga!
The spoiled Elgala.

There's also the Oubliette. This is the section at the back of every book that takes up anywhere from two to ten pages, and has in-depth explanations of sound effects, cultural references, and so on. The editor that writes this is genuinely very clever, and I always make time to read them because a) they make the manga easier to understand and b) they're hilarious!

But being a simple parody is easy. I wouldn't have the entire manga series, up to now, sitting on a shelf if it was just a parody series. Excel Saga becomes, slowly, and without warning, a real, heavy-hitting, masterpiece. If you've read any MegaTokyo, a very similar thing happens. Characters become deep, they have real emotions and backgrounds, and you start to really, truly be intrigued by them and invested in what happens to them. I firmly believe that a well-written comedy series can be among the most highly empathic styles anyone can do. To make someone laugh, but also to make them realize true talent has been at work.

In summation, watch the anime first, because without any outside knowledge, it's still hilarious and lampoons some pretty obvious anime themes. Then, pick up the manga and experience a truly masterful parody series that goes beyond simple lampooning to become a series worth standing on its own.

Not Simple

Life is hard. You can tell by how depressing
 everything is.
The one-shot manga is a special breed. In many cases, the one-shot is the most literary type of manga you can get. not simple by Natsume Ono (of Ristorante Paradiso fame)is one of the best examples of that I can imagine. It has all the hallmarks of contemporary written literature. A framing narrative, clever reverse chronologies, and big, classic, stage-worthy twists.

The art style is, ehhh, different. It's sketchy, with big heads and wispy bodies. It has a very American feel to it, to me. That was the main detractor, the first read-through, but then I realized that the style is actually nicely complementary to the story, because it fades and you focus more on the story. In the one-shot, that's a nice touch, because considering you only have so much real estate to tell the story, you have to keep the reader focused on it.

But not simple is so much more than that. Every time I read this book, I'm reminded of the film "elephant" by Gus Van Zant. If you haven't seen it, it's a movie that's about a school shooting. There are several different view points, and each time you get a different view the day progresses, and you get more backstory, until the shooting actually goes down at the very end. not simple has the same pacing of that movie, but each view is just a different part of the main character's, Ian, life. and let me warn you now, Ian's life is pretty damn depressing (also much like "elephant").

Ian is raised, horribly, by his alcoholic mother. He has a father, who splits pretty quickly. Ian also has a sister who tries to take care of him. I hesitate at what to include in this review, because if you haven't read it yet, any information beyond this would largely ruin the story for you, and that would actually be a shame because it's a good one.

So go read it now, bookmark this, and read the rest of the review after. ^^; k? k.

Ian, as you now know, is a bastard, incest child.

But the weird thing is, he never wallows in it. If I were in his shoes, I think I'd be a bit more sullen and have some outbursts of murder. But Ian is a hell of a guy, or at least, he's a hell of an unruffled individual.

The first time I read it, I didn't pick up on a lot of what was going on. The whole sex for pay, the AIDs business, went totally over my head for whatever reason. But the next time, I had a bit of jaw drop.

Then there's Jim, the author, who I can't really call a friend, because he's such a useless, apathetic spectator. I just can't stand characters like Jim. 

The more I write about not simple, the more difficult it is to express the way that it makes me feel. I'm sad for Ian, and his death was sad, but the disaffected way people float in and out of life makes me somewhat envious of him. Also, characters who wander from place to place are generally awesome.

The moral of the story is never let a rich married woman buy you a suit, because you'll die in that suit.